Japan Trip Report Part 3

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Oct 25th, 2004, 06:06 PM
  #1
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Japan Trip Report Part 3

The final part of our Japan Trip

Day 6
After eating breakfast at the Starbucks in our Hotel we met our Guide that we arranged for from SGG in our lobby. She was a small woman in her 40s named Mitako. After going though her well planed itinerary we agreed it was great and started walking (more like following ? Japanese people walk very fast!!)
We walked down Shijo Ave on the way to a train station and she showed us her favorite Dept store as well as some other stores that were famous for Tea and other local things.
We caught a train to Inari Shrine, which turned out to be one of my favorite shrines in Japan. There were Buddhist ceremonies going on as well as some sort of ritual dance in a side temple. Our guide showed us how to use the Water ladles that you see in front of the shrines, washing our hands and mouths. She then showed us how to ring the gongs (alerting the gods to your presence). Without a guide we would have never done this stuff.
The Inari shire has a series of Gates (tori) that are tightly packed together over kilometers of mountain pathways ? we walked for a while trough these gates. If I had more time I would have like to walk the entire path.
After visiting the shine our guide though it was best to eat near there. So she picked little restaurant that was apparently 100 years old. We enjoyed soba noodles and tofu on tatami mats ( for about 600 yen per person)
After lunch we took a train up the Sanjusangendo shrine, housing 1001 Kannon figures in japans longest wooden building. This was a very interesting place the figures are great, along with several different guardians in front of them as well as a large statue of Kannon in the middle. During our visit they were holding a Buddhist wedding ? so we stood and watched. Our guide was particularly interested in this because usually in Japan weddings where of Shinto ceremony as opposed to Buddhist. I liked the fact the everyone drinks sake after the vows (I think it was vows) were over.
After this shrine we climbed the quaint narrow streets past the tons of souvenir shops to the Kiyomizudera shrine up in the hills. This is a great place with a terrace overlooking Kyoto. The entire building was built without nails which is quite impressive since it quite large. This temple is also known as the ?pure water temple? where a natural spring runs and people line up to get a drink.
On the way down the hill we grabbed some green tea ice cream wandered down to Gion Quarter This is where our invaluable guide left us, on her way home.
After briefly walking around the Gion Quarter, we headed back near the Pontocho
And at at a pizza place, deciding we needed a small break from Japanese food

Day 6
Headed to the Train station and had breakfast there (New Orleans café du monde of all places ? go figure?)
We then took the Bullet Train to Himeji. The castle here is amazing you are able to walk through the out walls and guard towers as well as the grounds. You can climb all the way to the top of this castle (8 floors!!) It is well worth the trip. What amazes me is that the toilets were in the basement, What if you had to go the bathroom and you were at the top floor?? You would have to climb all the way down.
We Ate at some strange fast food burger place called loterria then hoped the train back to Kyoto.
We then headed to the Golden Pavilion, Incredible building ? but we discovered that the originally was burned down by a disgruntled monk in the 50?s, do this one even has much more gold. The temple grounds are pretty small but quite nice.
Then we headed to the Ryoanji temple, which is famous for its rock garden, which was very nice but really not all that impressive. I found the surrounding garden 1000 year old pond and moss covered ground to be actually better than the little rock garden.

That night we ate at place called Agatha, which was Kusyaki bar. Which happened to be packed with westerners. The food here was very good (although a little over priced) Mostly grilled skewers of Pork, seafood, and beef. Some other interesting root vegetables as well
Stopped at ?pig and whistle? English pub to have a drink later, the bar was pretty empty just a few people there for a convention throwing darts

Day 7
Today we took the Train to Nara, which is actually a quite nice ride ? much better scenery than the ride to Himeji
We basically spent the whole day exploring the deer park. My wife probably fed hundreds of deer. The paths of this park are all lined with old stone lanterns (100?s of them) we visited several Shines and a huge hall perched on top of a hill. The views of the mountains an forest were there, and it was a beautiful day
We had sob noodles at a little cafeteria for lunch
Then headed to Giant Wood Temple (Todoji) and to see the Buddha, This is the largest temple we went to in Japan and probably on of the most impressive. This thing is HUGE. The Buddha inside is also quite impressive. The wood is very old and it shows (this structure dates back to the 1400?s, but the temple dates back to the 700?s)
On the way back we visited the Kofukuji shrines and saw the 3 and 5 story pagodas

That night we Ate in Gion at a little Japanese restaurant on Tatami mats. The menu was similar to Genko Sushi, where you could try many different dishes. I had rice balls, and mushrooms, pork and some shrimp all quite good.
We saw show at Gion Quarter after dinner. My wife liked the Maiko Girl dancing but some of the other show was a little boring. There was a puppet show(which I thought was dumb) , a mini drama, and demonstration of a tea ceremony and Harp playing (which was pretty cool) All in all my wife really just wanted to see Maiko Girls dance and they had only one ? so don?t really think it was worth the 2700 yen

We stopped for coffee and Ice Cream on the way home. Instead of using chocolate syrup the Japanese use these Chocolate Jello cubes, which are very strange? But they were pretty good so I won?t complain.

Day 8
Rain ? today it rained all day. A typhoon was on its way ? so I was wondering if we would make out 5:55 flight from KIX.
We went Shopping at Kyoto Handicraft center and bought our souvenirs and gifts. 6 levels of Japanese trinkets, some junk, some pretty nice things like Sake sets and pearls
Ate our last Japanese style meal at Noodle place off Shijo Street on tatami mats. We did not have noodles instead we opted for sticky rice with yakotori and tempura over it, very very good.
Then Walked around the covered shopping streets
And headed Train to Kansai Airport, we luckily just missed typhoon that ravaged the area
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Oct 25th, 2004, 08:06 PM
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Great report! I am very interested in
reading part I and II. I have been
very busy and missed it.

Thanks!

GTL
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Oct 25th, 2004, 08:14 PM
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Never mind. I already found it!
I think Im loosing it!!!
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Oct 25th, 2004, 09:07 PM
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nice report thanks...
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Oct 26th, 2004, 12:55 PM
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Great report. Your narative was informative without being pedantic. Thanks. Reports like this make Fodors my favorite forum. go Sox. Pedro tonight.
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